I’ve been in conversation lately with library directors across the state, particularly award winning libraries. We’ve been talking about why libraries like Wilkinson, Fleming and La Junta are rated five-stars, nationwide. In other words, what makes a library shine? Many library directors jump to “solid funding” as the main reason a library excels. Naturally, having enough money to provide well-trained staff, a clean facility and new materials is a main ingredient. But I contend that there is a tipping point at which money becomes a secondary factor, a base point where enough basic services are provided and anything left can be creatively leveraged to serve your community in unique ways, ways that matter most to the community. More people use the library in less affluent Fleming and La Junta than in affluent Aspen and Vail. What, then, becomes the main factor in library success, once the funding tipping point has been reached?
I call that factor “getting to yes.” It’s a philosophy I have used since I arrived here four years ago, and one our staff uses every day when meeting the public. A few months ago, Jacey DePriest walked into my office and told me she needed the library to check out bikes to the community. My initial reaction was, what a great service. My secondary reaction was, we’re not bike mechanics. Jacey convinced me the project had to happen and we were the logical partners, with a checkout system already in place. The community needed us, so I went straight to yes. Jacey was a dream to work with, and in a few weeks the community will have free bikes to use all over town. We won’t be bike mechanics. We’ll just do what we normally do – find a way to help the community get what it needs.
Beth Bailis wrote a warm and thoughtful letter to the editor earlier this year, praising Wilkinson Public Library for “getting to yes.
“The community had a need,” Beth wrote, in reference to the groups of schoolchildren who visit the library every day after school. ”I know the librarians felt like babysitters… But Elizabeth Tracy and her staff stepped up and, rather than turn these children away, recognized this need. Rather than trying to figure out how to stop being the baby-sitters, they embraced these children and became teachers, nurturers, guidance counselors and friends.”
I keep Beth’s letter on my bulletin board to remind me every day that this library’s role is all about community. It’s the “getting to yes” that makes your library stand above the rest. Over the next few months, we’ll be reaching out to you through focus groups. We’ll be asking you what we can do to make this community even better than it already is. We’ll be asking you how to “get to yes.”
We look forward to hearing from you.